Glenn Greenwald: 2012 Election? Or American Idol Reality TV Soap Opera?

Is the race for the 2012 GOP nomination more like a reality TV show pageant than a presidential election?

In a recent column on Salon.com, progressive liberal columnist Glenn Greenwald offers a scathing critique of the media's coverage of the 2012 race. He writes: 

"[The] political media are obsessed — to the exclusion of most other issues — with the cast of characters vying for the presidency and, most of all, with the soap opera dynamic among them. It is not a new observation that the American media covers presidential elections exactly like a reality TV show pageant: deeply Serious political commentators spent the last week mulling whether Tim P. would be voted off the island, bathing in the excitement of Rick P. joining the cast, and dramatically contemplating what would happen if Sarah P. enters the house."

Greenwald argues that the media's coverage of the elections distracts us from focusing on issues of "genuine political significance" by focusing only on the "protracted carnival of presidential campaigns." Here's an excerpt: 

"From now until November, chatter, gossip and worthless speculation about the candidates’ prospects will drown out most other political matters. ...  A presidential term is 48 months; that the political media is transfixed by campaign coverage for 18 months every cycle means that a President can wield power with substantially reduced media attention for more than 1/3 of his term.  Thus, he can wage a blatantly illegal war in Libya for months on end, work to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past his repeatedly touted deadline, scheme to cut Social Security and Medicare as wealth inequality explodes and thereby please the oligarchical base funding his campaign, use black sites in Somalia to interrogate Terrorist suspects, all while his Party’s Chairwoman works literally to destroy Internet privacy — all with virtually no attention paid.

... But worse still is that the media coverage all but ignores even these pretenses of policy positions in lieu of vapid, trite, conventional-wisdom horse-race coverage — who will be the next American Idol? — that virtually all ends up being worthless. Over and over, commentary throughout 2007 fixated on the inevitability of Hillary and Giuliani, the death of McCain’s GOP candidacy, and various other forms of trivial idiocies; now we are bombarded with identical forms of shallow, speculative chatter from self-proclaimed experts who know nothing and babble about the most ultimately irrelevant matters. ... That’s the cheap, easy, empty, accountability-free, trivial punditry nonsense — called “coverage of the presidential campaign” – that swamps political discourse for a full year-and-a-half."

Do you agree with Greenwald? Is there a problem with the media's coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign? If so, what are the key issues that the media ignores and what should the media do differently?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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